Melchior Tavernier's nicely engraved map of the post roads of France at the beginning of the 17th century.
This is the first postal road map -also the first important map issued by Sanson. The map shows all of the routes used by the royal posts of the time, identifying the stops along the way; it was reprinted many times during the seventeenth century. Curiously, the cartouche for the dedication has been left blank. The French postal system dates back to 1477, when King Louis XI set up a Royal Postal Service that employed mounted couriers. The timing of this map is relevant, for private mail delivery had just been legalized several years earlier (1627), so both services were operating over the same major routes. In 1672, France made postal service a government-only function.
Melchior Tavernier was a member of a large family involved in the publishing trade in Paris in the early years of the seventeenth century. Early in his career, he apparently collaborated with Henricus Hondius, as at least one of his early maps references Tavernier as the seller of a map engraved in Amsterdam, by Hondius. He is probably best known for his publication of a map of the Post Roads of France, which was copied many times until the end of the century. He also issued an atlas under the same title as J. le Clerc's Theatre Geographique, using many of Le Clerc's maps, but incorporating others from different sources. He published composite atlases and also published works for other cartographers, including N. Sanson, N. Tassin, and P. Bertius. He is not to be confused with his nephew of the same name (1594-1665), who also engraved maps for Nicolas Sanson.
Nicholas Sanson (1600-1667) is considered the father of French cartography in its golden age from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth. Over the course of his career he produced over 300 maps. His success can be chalked up to his geographic and research skills, but also to his partnership with Pierre Mariette. Previously, Sanson had worked primarily with the publisher Melchior Tavernier. Mariette purchased Tavernier’s business in 1644. Sanson worked with Mariette until 1657, when the latter died. Mariette’s son, also Pierre, helped to publish the Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde.